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Granny's Story The Viewing Story short story


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By Seymour Shubin

She stood at the casket, flanked by her two adult sons. She looked at his face, still strong in death, but his hands, holding each other, looked false. She began to cry, her body shaking. Each son put an arm around her.
She was seventy-seven, he had been seventy-eight. They had been closing in on their fiftieth together.
As she moved away from the casket, her two granddaughters came over. They were cousins, both in their early teens. They eased her into a chair.
“Granny,” one of them said, “can I do anything for you?”
“A glass of water?” the other asked.
She shook her head and leaned forward to kiss each of them.
“I’m all right,” she said. “I’m all right,” she repeated, her voice lower.
The room was crowding up and people were coming up to her in turn. The fact that he’d died unexpectedly--his heart giving way in what had appeared to be a healthy man--seemed to make it more difficult for them to say anything appropriate.
“At least he didn’t suffer,” was the best of the lot, and the one that was most offered.
She offered her cheek to those bending forward to kiss her.
“If there’s anything you ever need...”
That was another. And it was deeply appreciated. But the only thing she needed was gone to her. And she didn’t believe in heaven and the forever-alive coming to her amid kisses and little stories. Bill never believed in that heaven business either, though they both went to church most Sundays, where that was almost always a part of the sermon.
“Granny, you all right?” from Tammy, the younger of the two girls.
“Yes, sweetheart,” taking her hand for a few moments.
Bill hated viewings, though he always came to them. He couldn’t stand these open coffins. And she would have had it closed but her sons urged her not to.
“People expect it,” Ron, her youngest, said.
“And it’s not as if he was sick and looks bad,” her other son said.
So she let herself be ground down. Though that wasn’t fair of her. A part of her didn’t want Bill to disappear just in an instant. Here and gone. She wanted him to linger, if only a short while longer. And he did look good, actually a term she hated used for the dead. Anyway, there he was.
So many people had come, she would think now and then. And so many whom she barely knew, though they were from her neighborhood. And some she didn’t know at all, until they’d come up and said, for instance, that they were one of Bill’s customers. And how nice it was that Bill’s boss at the huge home-appliance store had come, and not only that but he’d brought his family.
She looked over at the casket again. She couldn’t see Bill from here, and it struck her as awful, that she was losing all this time. She stood up, and one of her granddaughters took hold of her hand and walked with her to the casket again, the crowd opening up for her. She stood there, then reached down and placed her hand on his, which was neither cold nor clammy, but it wasn’t totally his. Soon she walked away and stood among a group of her friends. And as she stood there she began to wonder if he’d ever gotten over that burst of pain, so long ago, with her crying and promising never again, that it had been just a one-time affair, if it could even be called that. All she knew was that he’d never brought it up to her again.
“Yes, sweetheart.”
“Can I do anything for you?” Tammy asked.
“No, darling. No, sweetheart.”
But she was crying again. And now no one could possibly know why,

The Viewing, a Short Story Copyright © 1998 By Seymour Shubin , All rights reserved


Music by David Michael Jackson
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